Vacay.ca occasionally publishes articles on destinations outside of Canada. Vacay.ca Writer Rod Charles takes a Halloween trip to Erie Pennsylvania and discovers the city is more entertaining than eerie. But there are a few spooky moments.
Story by Rod Charles
Vacay.ca Deputy Editor
ERIE, PENNSYLVANIA – If you’re like me the only time you’re probably going to stop in Erie, Pennsylvania is when you need gas or a great place to shop on Black Friday. That’s a mistake.
From great restaurants and hotels to world-class parks and museums, Erie Pennsylvania has a lot to offer. There is another reason to check out Erie, especially during this time of year – Halloween. Restaurants and parks aside, if you’re one of those people who enjoys having their blood curled once in awhile, you’ll find out why some like to refer to Erie Pennsylvania as Eerie Transylvania!
[box_info]Leaving from Canada? Remember to pack your passport and bring US cash – Canadian dollars are not accepted here. Interstate 90 is a toll road, so be sure to bring cash. The journey from Buffalo to Erie cost $3.15 US Dollars, but prices may vary depending on where you are driving from.[/box_info]
Erie lives right by the lake on Interstate 90 between Buffalo New York and Cleveland Ohio, a two hour drive to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. For me, it was a very manageable 3 1/2 hour drive from Toronto, Ontario with the only real inconvenience being the border.
11 A.M. Arrive at Sheraton Hotel 55 W Bay Rd
A decade ago, I stood at Dobbins Landing on the shores of Presque Isle Bay and the only thing there was the famous Bicentennial Tower Station. That’s all changed. The entire area is under development now and the biggest standout is the 2– room Sheraton Hotel complete with lake and city views, a 24-hour fitness centre, indoor heated pool and whirlpool. Outside on the shores of Presque Isle Bay, boaters can tie up their boats in the marina. If you’re so inclined, cruises are available and for those who enjoy fishing, there are fishermen who will take you out.
1 P.M. Bayfront Grille
After that long drive I chose to have lunch at the hotel. Bayfront Grille is a nice place to chill out by the water and enjoy your favourite sport on television. The Crab Cakes ($29) were a nice choice but there are also many nice appetizers if you’re not in the mood to eat heavy.
3 P.M. Check Out A Legendary Ship 150 E Front St #100
My first stop of the day is the Erie Maritime Museum, just a ten minute walk from the hotel. Everything you have ever wanted to know about the region is on display, including fishing history and the War of 1812. Many wonderful artifacts are here, but the main draw is the U.S. Brig Niagara, a replica of the relief flagship of Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry.
Spooky Highlight: Anything about war is generally spooky. According to the website, on September 10, 1813, nine small ships — six of them, including Niagara, constructed at Erie – defeated a British squadron of six vessels in the Battle of Lake Erie. A pivotal event in the War of 1812, it led to regaining Detroit, lost at the war’s outset, and lifted the nation’s morale.
6 P.M. – Off To The Races
That night we head for dinner and live thoroughbred Horse Racing at Presque Isle Downs & Casino’s The Backstreet Buffet ($26.99) was excellent, featuring several choices for all culinary tastes. Meat lovers, vegetarians, people who enjoy fish and outstanding desserts.
Spooky Highlight: Nothing scary about Presque Isle Downs & Casino except my gambling skills. Fortunately the food was fine, which more than compensated for the fact the three stellar horses I bet on, appropriately named “The View Is Amazing Back Here”, “Has Anyone Seen The Finish Line?” and “I’ve Fallen And I Can’t Get Up” all came in dead last. Oh well, as I’ve already stated the buffet was very good and made up for those talentless horses. How spooky your trip is will depend entirely on how good you are at picking horses. Hopefully, you will have better luck than I.
8 A.M. – BREAKFAST AT AVANTI’S RESTAURANT 1662 West 8th St
A short drive from Presque Isle State Park, Avanti’s Restaurant
Avanti’s has been around since 1975 and are known not only for their classic diner food, but their outstanding breakfasts. Build your own omlette for less than $7 – a great choice is the traditional cheese omelet with bacon. I hear they are known for their biscuits and gravy ($4.99) but I didn’t try it, so you’ll have to see for yourself.
11 A.M. – WALK IN THE PARK
A trip to Presque Isle State Park and the Tom Ridge Environmental Center is something you must make time for during your visit. One interesting thing I learn is how much the park has changed over the years and the amount of effort – and sand – it takes to keep the Presque Isle from disappearing. In fact, during our tour we drive by a giant mound of imported sand that has to be at least three stories tall. If you have time, take a trip to the top of the TREC Tower for a breathtaking view of the area, including the roller coaster next door at Waldameer Park & Water World that crosses over a road. Great stop for kids.
Spooky Highlight: TREC or Treat! Tom Ridge Environmental Center has Halloween fun for the whole family. On Saturday October 24 from 10a-2pm, kids can enjoy a costume parade and contest, treat stations throughout TREC and a special Halloween movie on The Big Green Screen.
Tom Ridge Address: 301 Peninsula Dr
Presque Isle State Park Address: 150 E Front St #100
Phone: 1 814-833-7424
Waldameer Park & Water World: 220 Peninsula Dr
After our stop at Tom Ridge we spend the rest of the afternoon driving through Presque Isle State Park. Many wonderful stops are here, with nice views of the city and the lake. The impressive Perry’s Victory & International Peace Memorial celebrates the heroism of honor those who fought in the Battle of Lake Erie, during the War of 1812, and to celebrate the long-lasting peace among Britain, Canada and the U.S. The island features a picturesque drive, floating houses, walking trails, spectacular bird watching and a lovely sandy beach.
Spooky Highlight: Not only is Presque Isle State Park the scene of a battle that could have easily changed the outcome of the War of 1812, but according to our guide several bodies of American soldiers and sailors were laid to rest in a place called Misery Bay. It was a cold winter and the best option at the time was to dig a hole in the ice and bury the men there. What’s interesting is archaeologists have failed to find any bone fragments or evidence of these deceased men. Presque Isle State Park might be a beautiful place to visit today, but it was in fact once a battlefield – and is a final resting place – for many American servicemen.
3:30 P.M. – Late lunch at Brewerie 123 West 14th
After a long walk I’m ready to eat. Brewerie is known for their beer breaded deep fried pickles ($5.99), three onion ale soup ($3.99) and train wreck sandwich ($9.99) which has a little bit of everything on it.
4:45 P.M. – Downtown Trolley
Take the downtown Trolley, a free ride that runs up and down State Street – Erie’s main drag – from 14th and State to the foot of State which is Dobbins landing and Presque Isle Bay. Here you can get on and get off to explore the many museums and shops that line the street including the Maritime Museum, Art Museum, Children’s Museum, the historic Warner Theatre and more.
7:30 PM – Lunch at 1201 Kitchen 1201 State St.
Chef Dan Kern uses the freshest (and usually local) ingredients at 1201 Kitchen to create his magnificent contemporary Latin Asian cuisine. Known for their incredible sushi and ramen dishes. Their menu changes seasonally. Try the shortrib ramen with soft egg, roasted tomato-pork bone broth and mâyu black garlic oil ($22) or the grilled swordfish with carrot velvet, basil oil and crispy sweet potato hash ($26).
9:00 a.m. – Discover Treasures From The Beach
After lunch at our hotel, we’re off to begin our day at Relish Beach Glass Studio and Gallery. This business is an awesome counter-argument for all those silly environmentalists. Sea glass, or beach glass is the product of man’s unstoppable desire to pollute everything. Over several years, bottles, jars and glass carelessly discarded into the lake are recycled by the ocean to form colourful gems.
Relish Beach Glass Studio and Gallery is owned by sisters Terri and Jennifer. Growing up near the beaches of Lake Erie As children, they collected everything including beach glass on daily walks on the beach and today they have turned that hobby into a successful business. This is a wonderful store to pick up unique, signature gifts that are difficult to find anywhere else.
Address: 3835 W 12th St
[box_info]If you’re interested in learning more about these colourful trinkets, consider visiting Erie for the Great Lakes Beach Glass & Coastal Arts Festival. This event takes place April 30 & May 1, 2016.[/box_info]
11 A.M. – Brunch at Bertrand’s Bistro 18 N Park Row
If you love crepes, then Bertrand’s Bistro is your stop. This restaurant has a phenomenal brunch on Sunday’s that is a community favourite. Word of advice – book ahead. This restaurant boasts nine different types of Crepes, a carving station, in house made pates and creme brulees. Prices range from $22 per person, 6-12 years old $12.00.
1:30 p.m. Erie Zoo 423 W.38th
This zoo has several fun activities for kids. Several animals live here, including an African Black-Footed Penguin, an African Lion, a red panda and a Sand Cat. Admission is $8.50 for adults.
Spooky Highlight: ZooBoo 2015 at the Erie Zoo through Oct 30. 6-9pm. Enjoy treat stations throughout the zoo, children up to age 12 can dress in costume. ZooBoo features spooky train rides, and later hours give visitors the opportunity to observe animals at night.
7 P.M. Latino’s Restaurant & Bar
Another suggestion for dinner is Latino’s Restaurant & Bar.
Open Tuesday to Saturday, Latino’s menu is pretty expansive, featuring their hand-made tostadas and enchiladas. Spiced to your preference, so if you’re feeling courageous and think you can take the heat the people at Latino’s are happy to oblige.
9 A.M. Fuhrman’s Cider Mill, Bakery & General Store 8270 Peach St
Off To The Market to grab some treats. One of the best October stops you can make in Erie is Fuhrman’s Cider Mill, Bakery & General Store. You will find several tasty treats, including many gluten free items, sponge candy, fresh apple cider, Pulakos Chocolates and chocolate covered bacon. Fresh fruits, cookies, gifts, candies and drinks are available for your ride home or to the hotel. This is also a great place for kids because there is a petting zoo and a maze (certain times of the year).
11:45 A.M. – Lunch at Hooch & Blotto’s 8071 Peach St
Hooch & Blotto’s offers a Tater Top Mountain appetizer ($6.99) and also their Oh My Cod Tacos ($9.99). You’ll also love the chicken wings – tossed in your choice of sauce and served with celery, carrots and a side of ranch or bleu cheese. Order Size: single (8 wings) $9.99 double (16) $17.99. Sauce flavours include Kentucky Bourbon, Honey Mustard, Chipotle Lime BBQ, Mango Habanero, BBQ, Garlic Parmesan, Hot & Spicy, Buffalo, or Teriyaki.